Tuesday, July 28, 2015

There's An App For That

I have a mental map of everywhere in New York City I can freely do my business outside of my apartment in relative secrecy. There are the bathrooms halfway down the stairs to the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, where the stall doors are too squat but everything smells decent. There’s the 4th floor of Century 21, where nobody will find you amid the hoards of tourists ripping through discount prom dresses. There’s the door behind the children’s book section of the Union Square Barnes & Noble, and the basement of the Old Navy in SoHo, and Grand Central Terminal and Penn Station and the Port Authority. Of course there are plenty of diners and Starbucks’ where I could order a coffee in exchange, but this is not . I have a volatile stomach and I should not have to pay to relieve it.

New York is not very welcome to my problems, but there are some solutions. There is now an app, Looie, where for $25 a month New Yorkers can reserve clean restrooms inside local businesses. It is only the latest in the many ways the sharing economy is trying to hack our bladders. Airpnp, Toilet Finder, and Nyrestroom.com all show us where in New York (and often the world) we can pee for something resembling free, whether it’s in exchange for the purchse of a coffee or just a dirty look and/or risk of expulsion from a hotel concierge. On a site like Nyrestroom, search for just “public restrooms” and the crowded map becomes painfully bare for such a dense city, especially considered most are in playgrounds, where adults are not allowed to enter without children. Why so few? And why should we be paying $25 for the privilege?

There used to be more. In subways you can still see them: scratched black doors with male and female caricatures. But like many restrooms in New York’s parks and other public spaces, they seem forever padlocked. Untapped Cities reported that out of the 129 bathrooms in the city’s subway stations, just 48 are unlocked, and I’m going to assume many of those aren’t handicap accessible. You’re basically shit out of luck (sorry) with any bathroom in public.

However, this is not a planned disruption on behalf of the sharing economy. They are just capitalizing on a system that long ago stopped considering public restrooms and public service, as well as a system that would rather not serve some members of the public.

by Jaya Saxena, The Hairpin |  Read more:
Image: Amazon